Monthly archives: May 2006

Haditha massacre investigation

An investigation into the Haditha Massacre is about to report its findings.

Further comment from Dahr Jamail

‘Worst war crime’ committed by US in Iraq

From The Telegraph

A US military investigation is expected to conclude that a unit of marines killed 24 civilians, among them women and children, in retaliation for the death of a comrade, reports published in America yesterday said.

If confirmed when the official findings are published next week the incident would be the worst war crime committed by US forces in Iraq.

Though on a smaller scale, it will inevitably spark comparisons with the massacre of up to 500 Vietnamese villagers at My Lai in 1968. Citing Congressional, military and Pentagon officials, the reports in US newspapers said investigators had unearthed a catalogue of abuses so serious it is likely an as yet unspecified number of marines will be charged with murder.

John Kline, the Republican Congressmen for Minnesota who is a retired marine colonel, was briefed on the findings. “This was not an accident. This was direct fire by marines at civilians,” he told the New York Times. “This was not an immediate response to an attack. This would be an atrocity.”

A new investigation is also to be launched to determine if any of the men’s superior officers tried to cover up the killings after it was first reported that the deaths were the result of a roadside bomb or a crossfire.


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Enron, Bush and Uzbekistan

From Democracy Now

We turn now to the connections between President Bush and Enron. Enron founder Ken Lay and his family rank among President Bush’s biggest financial backers of his political career. The family donated about $140,000 to Bush’s political campaigns in Texas and for the White House. The president personally nicknamed Ken Lay “Kenny Boy.”

Overall Enron employees gave Bush some $600,000 in political donations. According to the Center for Public Integrity this made Enron Bush’s top career donor – a distinction the company maintained until 2004. Shortly after Bush took office in 2001, Vice President Cheney met with Enron officials while he was developing the administration’s energy policies. Our guest Greg Palast examined the connections between Enron and the Bush administration in his documentary “Bush Family Fortunes.”

Enron’s influence reached as far as Uzbekistan. In January, we interviewed the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. He spoke about the relationship between President Bush and the Uzbek regime of President Karimov.

Go here for the full interview and audio and video options.

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Torture Flights: The Shocking Facts

By Gordon Thomas in Canada Free press

(To prepare this exclusive report, the award-winning intelligence expert GORDON THOMAS spoke to a range of sources in Britain, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the United States.)

Despite the Bush administration’s insistence it neither participates nor condones ‘ “in any form” ‘ torture, the CIA continues to fly high-value al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects to interrogation centres which are beyond US jurisdiction ‘ and where torture is routine.

Investigations by the European Union and human rights activists like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have done nothing to end the secret flights that weekly cross the globe with their human cargoes destined for torture chambers.

What happens on some of the flights has been graphically described by a senior British intelligence officer who spoke under a guarantee of anonymity.

“I have personal knowledge of two flights on which the prisoners were shackled in their seats and drugged for the flight. CIA officers were on board to conduct preliminary interrogations. The heavy duty stuff is left until after landing”.


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UK government fails to investigate renditions and tries to undermine ban on torture

UK attacked over terror flights

From BBC Online

Ministers are failing to meet their legal duties to investigate claims that the CIA is flying terror suspects through the UK, say MPs and peers. Parliament’s joint committee on human rights says the government should take “active steps” to find out more details about certain flights.

The appeal comes in a damning report which also accused the UK of trying to undermine the absolute ban on torture. The government insists there is no evidence of secret prisoner flights. But allegations about the so-called “renditions” have continued.

And the committee says it should require chartered civil aircraft to provide staff and passenger lists when they use UK airports or fly through British airspace.

Such steps are not only allowed under UK law but also needed to ensure the government complies with the convention on torture, it said.

Torture challenge

A committee spokesman said the report concluded that the “government has not adequately demonstrated that it has satisfied the obligation under domestic and international human rights law to investigate credible allegations of renditions”.


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European governments cover up illegal CIA abductions

By Martin Kreickenbaum via San Francisco Indy Media

Alleged terror suspects have been kidnapped in the European Union (EU) by the CIA and taken to third countries where they have been subjected to torture. The European governments knew of these illegal actions and were even involved in them.

This is the conclusion reached in the first interim report of the subcommittee of the European parliament examining the illegal activities of the CIA within Europe. Dick Marty, the special investigator of the Council of Europe, reached a similar conclusion in February. Forty-six European states belong to the Council of Europe; the European parliament includes representatives of the EU’s 25 member states.

The European parliament has been examining the extent of possible CIA abductions and transportation to secret prisons for four months and now has evidence of more than a thousand unregistered flights that the CIA has carried out in Europe since 2001.

The interim report arrives at the conclusion, ‘In several cases, the CIA was clearly responsible for the illegal abduction and imprisonment of supposed terrorists within the territory of the member states, as well as extraordinary transfers, and that in some cases this involved European citizens.’

These extraordinary transfers, or ‘renditions,’ are characterised as clearly breaching international law. As the report notes, they are aimed at ensuring ‘that suspects are not submitted to legal proceedings.’ The CIA has ‘secretly kidnapped, imprisoned and transferred terror suspects,’ the report finds. They were despatched to other countries (including Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Afghanistan), ‘which, as the government of the United States admits, practice torture.’


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Sovereign Nations

Radio interview

The number of members of the United Nations has increased

exponentially since the end of the Cold War but could we ever reach

saturation point? BBC Radio 4 speaks to Alex Hartley, the artist who has tried to set up his own mini state in Antarctica and the former ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray.

Click to listen to the interview

(link updated 15/12/06)

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Ex-ambassador skewers CIA

By Monica Eng in the Chigaco Tribune

Six weeks after Craig Murray started his job as British ambassador to Uzbekistan in 2002, a packet of photos landed on his desk. Inside were pictures a mother had taken of her son’s mutilated corpse. The young man, a political prisoner accused of having ties to radical Islam, had been tortured, beaten and immersed in boiling water.

“And,” Murray recently told an audience at the University of Chicago, “when that guy was boiled to death, you paid to heat the water.” He was referring to the $500 million in U.S. aid given to the Uzbeks in 2002.

Murray, 47, visited Chicago during a recent college speaking tour with other members of the Bush Crimes Commission, a group that seeks to document, through outside experts, what it believes are crimes committed by the Bush administration.

The veteran diplomat left the foreign service in 2004 and has written an as-yet unpublished memoir he titles “Murder in Samarkand” about his time as ambassador to the Central Asian nation. During his tumultuous tenure, he openly criticized the human rights practices of his host country, met with government critics and was charged by his own government with trading sex for visas and 17 other infractions. (All were dismissed except for two minor charges.)

British film director Michael Winterbottom (“24 Hour Party People”) has announced that he will make a movie based on Murray’s memoir. The following is an edited transcript of two interviews.

Q. You talk about the CIA intelligence reports you received being “full of lies” that “came from the [Uzbek] torture chamber.” How do you know?

A. We had a report back that there was an Al Qaeda training camp in the hills of Samarkand from which they were going to swoop down and take the city. Ridiculous. We went, and there was nothing there. And if I could find that out, the CIA could, because they had a much bigger staff.

These agencies were routinely getting the information through sadistic torture, by which I mean the smashing of knees and elbows, electrocution, pulling of fingernails and toenails, the mutilation of genitals and very commonly the rape of family members in front of the person [whom] they wanted to sign. If you torture people, they will sign anything.

Q. You talk about the cold response to your concerns over torture evidence from our own government. How did the Americans react?

A. When I challenged the American officials about the intelligence being false, they told me that it was “operationally useful,” but at no point did anyone ever say to me that the information didn’t come from torture or that the information was true.

Q. The U.S. stopped supporting the Uzbek government in 2005 after it massacred hundreds of civilians in Andijan. In response, our air base was forced out. Isn’t that progress?

A. U.S. criticism of Andijan wasn’t really the reason the Uzbeks kicked out the air base. That decision was made the previous November as part of a deal Uzbekistan made with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Gazprom [the Russian gas company].

Q. “Murder in Samarkand” refers to an actual event, right?

A. Yes. I was having a talk over dinner with this professor and dissident in Samarkand one night, and while we were having dinner, his grandson was abducted off the street, tortured and, at about 4 o’clock in the morning, dumped on the doorstep. I was subsequently told by the Russian ambassador that it had been done by the Uzbek authorities as a message for me to stop meeting with dissidents.

Q. Do you think transporting suspects to countries where other nationals can interrogate them using torture is still going on?

A. I have no reason at all to think the policy has changed. But [the CIA is] being much more careful about touching down in Europe with prisoners onboard, because of all the fuss in Europe and the investigations going on.

Q. Do you think other diplomats are disillusioned by this policy but are afraid to speak out?

A. I think there is a great deal of fear.

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Labour party auction signed copies of the Hutton report

From The Guardian

A Tory MP has today written to Labour chair, Hazel Blears, demanding an apology for the party’s “monumental lack of judgment” in raising funds by auctioning a copy of the Hutton report signed by Cherie Blair.

Stuart Jackson, Conservative MP for Peterborough, told Guardian Unlimited that he was writing to Ms Blears today to ask why the party had raised money through selling a signed copy of the official report into the events surrounding the suicide of the government scientist Dr David Kelly.


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Over here…

In the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary broadcast this evening, Andrew Gilligan reported on disturbing evidence of how wounded Iraq veterans are being abandoned, how army recruitment has collapsed and the lengths to which the Ministry of Defence has gone to obscure statistics and prevent the full story emerging.

LFCM has more

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Blair ‘paying the price’ over sleaze

The Committee on Standards in Public Life is embarking on an enquiry into the Electoral Commission and key issues such as voter registration, arrangements for postal voting and standards of propriety in financing political parties, issues that have been of interest on this weblog for some time.

As Blair stalls on appointing a Labour representative to the enquiry the chairman, Sir Alistair Graham, has gone to the media…

From The Scotsman

TONY Blair has made his government seem as sleazy as the previous Conservative administration because he “ignored” the importance of upholding of standards, Britain’s standards watchdog has warned.

Sir Alistair Graham, the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, accused the Prime Minister of not taking sufficient action to mitigate the string of scandals that has tarnished his government.

The Labour government was paying a heavy price, as public confidence in ministers plummeted, he said in an unprecedentedly robust attack.

“I think it’s a major error of judgment,” Sir Alistair said.

“Opinion polls [show] the public think this government is as sleazy as the last.

“He has paid a heavy price for ignoring standards. We would have preferred more positive support from the Prime Minister. We suspect he is pretty lukewarm to the work we do.”

The standards watchdog’s warning was underscored by a poll that showed that more than half of voters want the Prime Minister to face criminal charges over the loans-for-peerages scandal. An ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph showed that

53 per cent of the 1,004 voters surveyed wanted to see Mr Blair prosecuted, and 36 per cent feel he should not face charges.

Reports also surfaced that the Metropolitan Police investigation triggered by the SNP’s complaint was tightening its inquiry around senior Downing Street aides. Although Sir Alistair, a former head of the Police Complaints Commission, has criticised the government before, the severity of his latest attack is unprecedented.


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UN torture report confirms US transgressions

US ‘must end secret detentions’

From BBC Online

The US should close any secret “war on terror” detention facilities abroad and the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, a United Nations report has said. The UN Committee against Torture urged the US to ensure no one was detained in any secret facility.

The report followed the first US appearance before the committee since the 11 September 2001 attacks. A legal spokesman for the US state department said the report contained “factual and legal inaccuracies”.

John Bellinger admitted that some “acts of abuse” had occurred in the past, but insisted the US was taking steps to prevent any repeat. “I think without a doubt our record has improved over the last few years,” he told the AFP news agency. “We take our obligations under the convention seriously.”

During the hearing in early May, the US neither confirmed or denied the existence of secret prisons. The US has been holding hundreds of terror suspects arrested since 11 September at facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba. It has been accused of operating secret prisons and transporting some detainees to states which use torture.

The committee also recommended in its 11-page report that the US should:

– Register all those it detains in territories under its jurisdiction

– Eradicate torture and ill-treatment of detainees

– Not send suspects to countries where they face a risk of torture

– Enact a federal crime of torture

– Broaden the definition of acts of psychological torture


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US officials give weight to reports of CIA kidnappings in Europe


CIA officials have corroborated reports that extraordinary renditions – transfers of prisoners from one country to another bypassing due judicial rule – have taken place on European soil with the blessing of EU governments.

A delegation from the European Parliament committee investigating allegations of US kidnappings and secret prison camps in Europe, on Wednesday (17 May) reported the information after a recent visit to the US.

“More than one source in the CIA…told us that between 30 and 50 people have been transported by extraordinary rendition,” Italian Socialist MEP and committee rapporteur Giovanni Claudio Fava told reporters in Strasbourg.

According to Mr Fava, the information MEPs received when meeting with the US state department’s top legal advisor, John Bellinger, assistant secretary of state Daniel Fried, members of the US Congress, lawyers and NGO representatives had been “patchy and inconsistent.”

But one clear point did emerge from the conversations, MEPs said.

“The only point in common from the officials we spoke to was that it was not possible to organise extraordinary rendition such as this without the active complicity of European governments,” said Carlos Coelho MEP, chair of the temporary committee.


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UN rights official says US stonewalling probes into CIA rendition claims

From the Jurist

Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counterterrorism, said Tuesday that US officials have been stonewalling investigations into allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency flew terrorism suspects through Europe to countries where they could be tortured. Scheinin expressed concern that as a result of US reluctance to cooperate with investigators it could take several years to determine the truth of the allegations.

Members of a European Union delegation investigating the practice known as rendition also complained of a lack of cooperation from the State Department during its visit to Washington last week. The EU visit was part of a European Parliament inquiry into whether European countries were involved in clandestine CIA prisons or flights moving suspected terrorists.

Reuters has more.

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When will this abuse of human rights end?

Until the extent of government manipulation in security issues is clear, we should mistrust Blair

By Philippe Sands in The Observer

The concept of extraordinary rendition does not have a clear meaning in international law. It is not referred to in any treaty or international instrument of which I am aware. It has come to be understood as referring to the practice of forcibly transporting a person, usually alleged to be involved in terrorism, from one country to another without relying on the normal legal processes for the purposes of subjecting them to interrogation and other forms of treatment that include torture or cruel and degrading treatment.

Both elements – the forcible transportation outside of due process, characterised by Lord Steyn as ‘kidnapping’ in his Attlee Foundation lecture, and the invasive forms of interrogation – raise the most serious issues under international law.

Earlier this year, there were reports of a leaked memo from the Foreign Office to Number 10, revealing concern that Britain may have approved requests from the United States to permit extraordinary renditions. This is the background against which to assess Tony Blair’s protestations of his commitment to fundamental rights and the rule of law, reflected in his email debate with Henry Porter in The Observer last month.


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Postal Voting and Electoral Fraud

A new report on Postal Voting and Electoral Fraud has been published by Isobel White of the Parliament and Constitution Centre. The report can be donloaded from the House of Commons library here

“There have been many allegations of electoral abuse since the introduction of postal voting on demand in 2001… The different election offences are outlined and the note explains the means of challenging an election result by election petition. A chronology of recent developments concerning postal voting including allegations of postal vote fraud at the local elections on 4 May 2006 is also given.”

“10 April 2005, The Sunday Times reported that there were fears that there would be voterigging in the constituency of Blackburn. Craig Murray, an Independent candidate, said he had been approached by several people in the Asian community ‘who are under huge pressure from Labour activists to apply for a postal vote’and then hand over their postal vote to the Labour party.’

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Red Cross Repeatedly Denied Access to US Prisoners

The break with their usual quiet diplomacy illustrates the Red Cross’s level of frustration at the intransigence of the US administration.

From The Guardian

WASHINGTON (AP) – Taking issue with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the State Department said Friday the United States is not obliged under the Geneva conventions to give the committee access to all prisoners under U.S. jurisdiction.

Department spokesman Sean McCormack commented in response to criticism about U.S. policies by ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger.

Setting aside his normal practice of keeping his views confidential, Kellenberger said in a statement Friday that he deplored the Bush administration’s refusal to allow ICRC access to prisoners being held in secret facilities.

”No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person’s whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained,” Kellenberger said.

He said the ICRC would continue to seek access to these people ”as a matter of priority” despite the ”the disappointing lack of results and the current U.S. position.”

Kellenberger issued his statement through the ICRC’s Geneva headquarters after meetings here with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other officials.


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Beckett defends her position on Iran

Craig Murray, the former ambassador to Uzbekistan and critic of the government’s foreign policy, said that no-one should underestimate the possibility of military strikes against Iran.

“Margaret Beckett was basically saying: ‘We don’t have any intentions to invade Iran at this present moment but we might change our intentions tomorrow,'” Mr Murray said. If he were the Iranian ambassador to London he would be “very worried” by the phraseology.

From The Scotsman

MARGARET Beckett, the new Foreign Secretary, has defended her decision not to rule out military action against Iran.

While her predecessor, Jack Straw, had said an invasion of the country was “inconceivable”, Mrs Beckett has refused to go as far.

Instead, she has used the non-committal phrase that there was “no intention” to mount an attack on the Tehran regime over its nuclear programme.

Her remarks came as western diplomats reported that international weapons inspectors had discovered new traces of highly enriched uranium on nuclear equipment in Iran.

The Foreign Secretary had insisted that her semantics did not represent any shift in policy, even though it was not as unequivocal as the language used by Mr Straw.

“It is quite deliberately different,” she told The World at One on BBC Radio 4.

She said she had decided within hours of her appointment last week that she would avoid the terms used by Mr Straw to avoid being the subject of “nit-picking analysis”.


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KQED interview on Torture and Human Rights

Craig Murray is now back in the UK after completing a sucessful University speaking tour on behalf of the Bush Commission. We will be posting a couple of radio interviews from the tour begining with this one below:

KQED FORUM with Michael Krasny

Janis Karpinski and Craig Murray: Torture and Human Rights

Go to KQED to listen to the interview

MIT hosted one of the events on the tour and details and recodings from that evening are also available from here

And lastly, tomorrow is the anniversary of the Andijan massacre. Craig will be attending a protest at Downing Street and support from as many people as possible would be appreciated. See previous post for details.

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